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Where the Hell Is Springfield?

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And this doesn’t even include Springfield, IL.

"It's kind of a mystery, yes. But if you look at the clues, you should be able to figure it out."
Lisa Simpson (being unusually cryptic), The Simpsons, "Blame It On Lisa"
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The location of the city, state, region, or sometimes even the country in which a work is set is never revealed or intentionally hidden.

It’s most often used as a Running Gag, but it can also be used in drama to create an atmosphere of mystery and uncertainty. Leaving a location unspecified can help it serve as a geographic Audience Surrogate. It can serve to create a City of Adventure (if only because very few real locations have every possible thing to see and do). Other times, the writers simply never see a reason to bring it up.

Creator Provincialism and No Communities Were Harmed come into play if the location is vaguely based on a real place, but here the difference is that the creators can also play fast and loose with the accuracy. Nevertheless, fans will still sometimes go to extensive effort to piece together clues and pin down the location, which usually just leads them to conclude that it’s set wherever it was filmed.

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The trope is named after Springfield, the hometown of The Simpsons, which even has its own Separate Simpsons Geography Thing. “Springfield” is one of the most common names for towns and cities in the United States, so the name serves as an indicator of an Everytown, America.

Compare City with No Name, Everytown, America, and Fictional Province. Contrast No Communities Were Harmed and Canada Does Not Exist, where the setting is based on a real-life location but never outright identified. The temporal version of this trope is Ambiguous Time Period.


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Examples:

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    Eastern European Animation 
  • Investigation Held by Kolobki is an interesting example. Originally, the city the story takes place in was called “Ensk”, a Russian catch-all term for a small provincial town meaning "City n". The sequel shorts and video games, though, have established it as Berdichev, Ukraine, which moves it into "Wacky Detectives in Berdichev" territory.

    Fan Works 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The Series goes back and forth on this. An earlier episode revealed it to be near Yellowstone National Park (i.e. Montana or Wyoming). A later episode lampshaded when the weather reporter simply calls the nearest county “that unnamed county that’s next to us.”
  • It's very ambiguous where Amestris is in Alternate Universe Fic i'm giving you a nightcall. Countries like the U.S. and Japan exist separately, and Amestris is further implied to have been created post-WWII based off Edward the 1st's stories of the actual Amestris.
  • Pretty Cure Perfume Preppy takes place in the fictional town of Oriyama, which neighbours the equally fictional town of Tsukimiya. Add another equally fictional town, Isuten, and you have the Tri-Cities. The author is still not sure where exactly they’re located.
  • We don’t know where exactly Cellar Secrets is set, but we can assume it’s in America (the author’s home country), based on little details like the house having a basement and characters having middle names. But we don’t know exactly where in America they live.
    • Similarly, in Kiryuuin Chronicles, we can assume that the fic takes place in America; Rye is community somewhere in New York, and Satsuki's father, Soichiro lives there, although other details suggest that the story itself (or most of it) takes place somewhere in the Midwest.
    • Much like the aforementioned two, we don't know where The Outside takes place but we do know it's an America, as in one piece of dialogue, Rei specifically says "state" (other countries tend to use terms like "province", "prefecture", or "region").
  • Quartz, TX from In the Eye of the Beholder is said to be located somewhere between Houston and Galveston, with part of the QIB visiting Houston at one point to visit a con.
  • In the expanded Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Rimwards Howondaland is an Expy of South Africa, but a version taken Up to Eleven, based on scattered hints dropped in canon, and pushing what everybody thinks they know about South Africa and White South Africans all the way off the scale. note . The city of Piemberg was imported for this purpose from the black farces of Tom Sharpe and given a Discworld twist or two, largely as a rural backwater place for characters to come from. Word of God says that the author didn't properly do the research, so that in some tales Piemberg is in Natal, or a Natal-like place, and in some it's in the Transvaal, or a Transvaal-like place. The Drakensberg Mountains shift around a lot, too. Piemberg is best thought of as a shifting Brigadoon for all the South African clichés to find a home in. Lawkes Drain is fairly nearby, for instance...
  • Part of the worldbuilding of The Guide to Lost and Hidden Locations of Earth and Near-Earth is set on averting this, with locations given to traditionally undetermined locales.
  • From Behind Bars:
    • The story identifies the lions of The Lion King as being of the Panthera leo massaica subspecies (now known as "Panthera leo melanochaita" subspecies). This pins the series as taking place somewhere in east Africa, but the exact location is unspecified.
    • Mufasa and Scar are sent to a European zoo. It's never described where the zoo is, however one of the characters is based on a lynx from a Polish zoo.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Muppets:
    • Kermit's swamp, initially in an undisclosed location in The Muppet Movie, is revealed to be in Florida during The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and then Kermit's Swamp Years puts it in Mississippi, not far from Jim Henson's birthplace. That seems to have stuck, with Denise commenting that his state tree is magnolia in The Muppets episode "The Ex Factor".
    • The locations of the Muppet Theatre in The Muppet Show and KMUP Studios in Muppets Tonight are never revealed in the original series either, since what exists beyond the show isn't relevant. (The deliberately Conspicuous CGI of the MuppetVision studio in The Jim Henson Hour arguably isn't intended to have a realspace location.) It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie establishes the Muppet Theatre is in a city with a park, a bank, and, for some reason, Whos, but doesn't name it (even the Official Historical Landmark certificate just says "the City"). The Muppets makes it part of Muppet Studios in Hollywood.

    Radio 
  • In the Focus on the Family radio show Adventures in Odyssey, the location of Odyssey is never actually revealed (naturally, neither is Campbell County). It’s implied to exist somewhere in the American Midwest. At some points, it’s explicitly stated to be in Ohio, but other mentions contradict this (such as a claim that it was a month’s wagon journey from Virginia). The wiki still maintains it to be in Ohio.
  • Centerville, the hometown of the title characters in The Aldrich Family, is in an unnamed state. The fact that many episodes that aired during the winter months reference heavy snowfall implies that it is north of the Mason-Dixon Line, but that's as much as can be easily inferred.

    Theatre 
  • The location of the nameless city in which Urinetown is set is a complete mystery. All that can be inferred (though the presence of Senator Fipp) is that it is in the U.S.
  • The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny is implied to be set in the U.S., but beyond that, it’s unclear exactly where. Consensus suggests that it’s Alabama, though; it’s near the coast (but not close enough), on the track of a hurricane that destroys Pensacola, within driving distance of Georgia, and of course mentioned in the “Alabama song”. But at the same time, there’s also a mention of Alaskan miners coming down the unspecified coast, which implies California.
  • Avenue Q takes place, according to Word of God, “in an outer-outer borough of New York City.”
  • As explained by this exchange in Footloose:
    “What he means is that he’s moving to some little hick town that nobody's ever heard of.”
    “Hey! People have heard of it!”
    “Oh, yeah? What's the name of it?”
    “You can find it on any map.”
    “What's the name of it?”
    “Folks are flocking there from all over.”
    What's the name of it?
    “Beaumont!”
    “Beaumont?! Where the hell is Beaumont?!”
  • Glengarry Glen Ross: While the Glengarry Islands and a few other (fictional) locations sold by the firm are in Florida, it is never revealed where their current focus, "Rio Rancho," is. There is a real Rio Rancho in New Mexico, and land there has actually become much more valuable since the play was written.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The West End version does this. Despite specifying where Augustus, Veruca and Violet are from (Bavaria, England and California, respectively), Mike is said to come from "Suburbia". The Broadway adaptation fixes this problem, stating instead that Mike is from Idaho, though the onstage background during his introduction still suggests he lives in an Everytown, America.
  • Starlight Express: It is never mentioned where the railyard the musical takes place in is set, despite the fact that competitors from numerous different countries around the world take place in the championship races. It would make sense if it was set in the country of performance- England for the West End production, America for the Broadway production, Germany for the Bochum production, etc- but there are already national trains representing the wide majority of those countries, including the three mentioned previously. To partially remedy this issue, many fans have settled on the idea that it is set in the (entirely fictional) Apollo-Victoria railyard, commonly referred to as 'the AV', which was named after the original West End theatre that Starlight Express took place in.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner is set in "Free Country, USA". Not even the characters really know where it is (apparently, it's in "Place"). The only map of the place showed the continental U.S. as a free-floating continent, with Free Country in the exact center (so presumably Nebraska). And in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, even locations within Free Country move around freely. That said, Creator Provincialism puts Free Country somewhere on the East Coast (radio stations begin with "W", and they're within driving distance of a Hardee's restaurant). This confluence could easily place Free Country in rural Illinois, Indiana, or western Ohio.
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: Vivi, Arthur and Lewis are from a town called Tempo that is somewhere in the vast state of Texas.

    Web Comics 
  • The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is set in a town with haunted woods, a pharmaceutical research facility, a warehouse district, a pirate bar and various other locales useful for the plot or action scenes. It is eventually revealed, through a series of hints in art and dialogue, to be Cumberland, Maryland (and later lampshaded in the Alt Text).
  • Gunnerkrigg Court and Gillitie Wood are located somewhere in the UK (apparently in Campbell Country). So far, only two further clues to their location have been given: the nearby Annan Waters (a real river in Scotland), and a letter from Kat (whose contents imply that the Court is not in Scotland).
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! is set in the aptly-named suburb of Generictown. It has not yet been specified what city Generictown is a suburb of. It is adjacent to Pitcheresk Forest, with a mountain range beyond that, including Mount Generic (which is notable for having a hole in its peak, thanks to events in one storyline).
  • Housepets! is set within Babylon Gardens, a suburban neighborhood somewhere in the United States; the exact location is not specified and has even been un-revealed, although the author has stated that the main characters’ home was based upon a former residence of his in North Carolina.
  • El Goonish Shive’s Moperville is in an undisclosed location somewhere in the US. At one point, in order to avoid revealing the location when Sarah is trying to search obituary records, the State abbreviation is replaced with asterisks. Fans have established that Moperville is most likely based on Naperville, Illinois, at least according to the wiki.
  • The location of the city in The Letters of the Devil is never specified. See also City with No Name.
  • Unwinder's Tall Comics is set somewhere in Minnesota. Eli Parker tried to avoid revealing its exact location for a long time, but eventually, a conversation came up which would have been too awkward to write without the characters mentioning the town’s name. It wound up being set in Garen, Minnesota, a real-life Ghost Town.
  • Bob and George is set in an undisclosed location. They’re presumably Japanese, but if so, why do they celebrate the Fourth of July?
  • Homestuck originally played this trope straight and left locations ambiguous, but Andrew Hussie did an about-face and gave all the heroes’ homes exact coordinates, which puts three of them in various parts of the U.S. and one in the South Pacific. Only Dave’s location is kind of ambiguous; he’s near Houston somewhere, but Hussie hadn’t drawn the city to look like Houston.
  • In Blood Stain, Dr. Stein's house is known to be in a city by the Mediterranean Sea. Said city is dubbed “God-knows-where” in lieu of an actual place name. In chapter three, the protagonist is shown an envelope with the house’s address, showing that the city is literally named “Godknowswhere”.
  • Tailsteak intentionally avoids giving a precise location for the setting of Leftover Soup, though occasional hints are provided. One common theory is that it might have been set in Portland.

    Web Original 
  • Classic Alice is set in Valeton; all we know about its location is that it’s “somewhere in New England”. Based on the leak of Alice and Andrew’s phone numbers, we know that Alice is from Connecticut and Andrew is from Long Island.
  • The Hidden Almanac: The Gregorian calendar, and references to real holidays and products, all suggest the setting may be the real world. Except, well, a lot of obviously impossible stuff happens and the only places mentioned are fictional. The City with No Name and the country it resides in have an erratic mix of English and US American cultural and political traits, but references to its neighbors predate the European discovery of the New World, further confounding where it might be located. So maybe a very strange corner of Earth, or (given references to The ’Verse) an alternate Earth with lots of weird stuff going on?
  • In Legion of Net.Heroes, Net.ropolis floats from state to state. It has its own senator for this reason.
  • Worm is mostly set in Brockton Bay, which is on the Atlantic Coast, driving distance from Boston; fanfics have placed it in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and even New Jersey. Brockton Bay replacing Portsmouth, NH is popular.
  • Pact, written by Worm’s author, takes place in Jacob’s Bell, Canada, but the exact location is left ambiguous.
  • Welcome to Night Vale’s eponymous town is known to be somewhere in the deserts of the American Southwest (and by Word of God not in Texas), but beyond that the location is uncertain. The fact that local grocery store is a Ralph’s suggests that it might be in southeastern California, although the fact that the town’s natives have never seen mountains complicates the issue, as most of the candidate locations are actually quite hilly. Given that Night Vale is an Eldritch Location which canonically exists in multiple universes simultaneously, it may not have a definite physical location at all.
  • You Have Become Your Avatar parodies the trope; Marcie!Joshua purchases a map that has every city labeled "Springfield".
  • The early episodes of RedLetterMedia’s Half in the Bag are inconsistent regarding where Mr. Plinkett's house is. It would switch between Teaneck, New Jersey (setting of Mr. Plinkett Reviews) and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (real location of RedLetterMedia). After the fan theory of there being two different Plinketts, they settled on Milwaukee.
  • The Grossery Gang webseries takes place in Cheap Town, which has various contradicting elements to its locale that makes it impossible to pinpoint, such as Australian-style wall outlets and snow during Christmastime.
  • T.O.T. mostly takes place in a subdivision called Green Water, and it's implied the characters live somewhere out in the country, given that the police force is small and consists of deputies. However, no one ever says what county, city, or even what state the story is located in.
  • In Twelve Hundred Ghosts Scrooge apparently lives in England, America, Japan, and Canada all at the same time, and in different time periods.

    Real Life 
  • Naturally, in Real Life many cities in the same or different regions can share the same name. Sometimes this was deliberate, where one city is named after another; sometimes they might just refer to common geographic features which recur frequently; or multiple cities are named after the same person or entity.
    • Alexander the Great was one of the most prolific such people; not only were eight cities in his former empire named Alexandria (including the modern Egyptian city of Alexandria), several other cities of that name have popped up around the world, including two in Canada, three in Australia, and nineteen in the United States.
    • Over fifty places in the United States are named after the Marquis De Lafayette, a key figure in The American Revolution. As a rule, any location named "Lafayette", "Fayette", or "Fayetteville" will have been named in his honor.
  • Not Always Right gives us a caller who lives in Springfield and can’t seem to tell what state she's in herself.
  • Some real-life places are undefined as well, likely because they're a part of the legend:
    • Polynesian culture, as a result of being spread around several distant Pacific islands, tended to refer to The Old Country in this way. Hawaiian mythology, for instance, refers to “Kahiki”, which is often interpreted to be Tahiti, but can theoretically mean anywhere in Polynesia that isn't Hawaii. The Maori concept of "Hawaiki" is similar (and may or may not refer to Hawaii). Recent DNA and linguistic studies have suggested that Taiwan could be the original Polynesian homeland.
    • Aztlán, the ancestral home of the Aztec people, is in an undefined location; the descriptions of the place seem to contradict each other. The only thing everyone agrees on is that it was somewhere north of where Mexico City is today.
    • The Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis. Could it have been a (semi-)real place? It's possible. All we know is that its location was somewhere between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and there are two more rivers mentioned that have no modern equivalent. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers, though, are real, and would put the location "somewhere in the Fertile Crescent," or modern-day Iraq, Syria, Iran, Jordan, or Turkey.
  • The London Underground has a fake station called “Ashfield West”, which has no particular location and is served by no particular line. It’s technically used for training purposes.
    • Similarly, the telephone exchange "555" in the US and Canada is not affiliated with any town, city, county, state, or province, and most often is used to denote a fictional phone number, or a number for training purposes in the telecommunications field.

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